Wednesday 31 March 2010

Venn diagram showing difference between geek, nerd, dork and dweeb

OCLC 2010 report on the impact of libraries in the US

OCLC has just released "How libraries stack up: 2010" (2 page pdf), a report that examines the economic, social and cultural impact of libraries in the United States. This concise report gives statistical evidence of the importance of libraries and includes eye-catching graphics illustrating these statistics.

EPA's risk assessment database available to public

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced that the Health and Environmental Research Online (HERO) database is now available to the public online. The database contains the scientific studies that EPA uses as a basis for making regulatory decisions. You can browse the database by topic; the options include "Air Pollutants" (ozone,sufur dioxide, etc.), "Chemical & Substances" (asbestos, chlorine, mercury, etc. ), and "Health & Environmental Effects" (such as acid rain, cancer, & climate change). According to the HERO site,"Public participation, transparency and collaboration are key elements to the success of HERO. The Open Government Directive is to break down long-standing barriers between the federal government and you. HERO helps accomplish this by sharing the scientific literature used in risk assessment development."

Tuesday 30 March 2010's suggested metadata practices for legislation and regulations

The law dot gov workshop hosted by the Legal Information Institute and held at Cornell last week has already produced some general recommendations for metadata for legislative information, including a general recommendation to use XML for metadata. You can read the specifics on the LII website.

Map of free & low cost legal databases

Greg Lambert over at 3 Geeks and a Law Blog has provided a helpful US map that shows which low-cost legal research databases are provided free of charge through state bar associations (currently 48 state bar associations offer members free access to at least one low-cost research service). For example, the New York Bar offers LoisLaw , 28 states offer Casemaker, FastCase is offered in 16 states, InCite is offered in Pennsylvania, and VersusLaw is offered in Arkansas. Currently, only Montana and California offer no legal research databases to state bar members.

State lawmakers challenge Maryland law school clinic

The Baltimore Sun reports that the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Maryland School of Law has come under scrutiny by some Maryland state legislators because of a pollution lawsuit the clinic has filed against a small chicken farmer and Perdue Farms, the "poultry giant". The suit alleges that polluted runoff from the small farm, which raises chickens for Perdue, is fouling the Pocomoke River and could affect the Chesapeake Bay. According to TortsProf Blog, a group of state legislators is trying to stop work on the case by denying funding to the law school until and unless the law school turns over information about the clinic operation, including confidential client information.

Monday 29 March 2010

Harvard’s Berkman Center and Launch “Copyright for Librarians"

The Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard has announced the launch of the "Copyright for Librarians" website. "Copyright for Librarians" is an online, open access curriculum on copyright law, developed in conjunction with (Electronic Information for Libraries) and intended to provide librarians with information about copyright law in general, as well as the aspects of copyright law that most affect libraries, especially those in developing and transition countries. The course materials include nine modules organised into five different levels that can be used as the basis for a self-taught course, a traditional classroom-based course, or as a distance-learning course.

Friday 26 March 2010

Senate committee voices concerns over PACER

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, chair of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, has sent a letter (6 page pdf) to the Senate Appropriations committee that approves funding for the Judiciary in which he voices concern over the federal court PACER system. He says "I have concerns abour how the Administrative Office of the Courts is interpreting a key provision of the E-Government Act relating to public access to Court records. Given the transparency efforts that have been made a priority across the Federal Government - as well as the recent call in the FCC's Broadband plan for increased online access to court records - I believe more attention needs to be paid to make these records free and easily accessible". He goes on to express concern that the courts are using PACER fees to pay for initiatives unrelated to providing PACER access, against requirements of the E-Government Act.

Google-China censorship

The Associated Press has an interesting article that looks at the specifics of how China's censorship of Google and the internet affects Chinese online users. They tested Google in Beijing, and report that "Recent searches for taboo topics from Beijing generally produced 'page cannot be displayed' errors. The user's browser stops working for about a minute, longer if one tries to access forbidden sites in quick succession. " As an example, they point out that doing a China Google search for "Falun Gong", the spiritual movement banned by the Chinese government, causes the browser to become unresponsive; the same search done in Hong Kong results in many links to info about Falun Gong. YouTube is blocked in China but not Hong Kong.
The article concludes that "The Great Firewall isn't an exact science, but it's meant to keep most of the sensitive content from most of the citizens most of the time."

Today is Google Day in Pittsburgh

Do you have any plans for your lunch hour today? If not, you might consider heading downtown to the City-County Building for "Google Day". Our Mayor is calling on yinzers to wear black and gold and form the word Google at 12:30, when a photo will be taken from the roof of the building. The photo-op is he move is the latest in a long series of stunts nationwide as cities vie to serve as a testbed for Google's experimental high-speed Internet service. You can also promote the 'burgh's selection at

hat tip: Katie Nye

It's Not too late to enter the Peeps in Law contest

There's still time to enter the Peeps in Law contest sponsored by the ABA Journal. Create a law-inspired diorama starring Peeps and send a photo of the diorama to the ABA Journal. Prizes will be awarded for the best 2 top Peeps in law entries; the prizes will be "Peeps prize packs filled with Peeps treats and treasures worth $150 and $100." I wonder which is first prize?

Wednesday 24 March 2010

OCLC free webinar on maximizing value of WorldCat

OCLC is offering a free Webex webinar that provides an introduction to, OCLC's public-facing discovery tool for library-owned materials worldwide. The webinar illustrates how public services staff, managers and technical services staff can work behind the scenes to help users get the best results from The webinar is offered on the following dates:
•Tuesday, March 30, from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m.(ET)
•Wednesday, April 14, from 4:00 - 5:00 p.m. (ET)
You can register online for the free webinar.

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Google stops censoring China searches

Google has stopped censoring its China website and starting today Google China internet traffic traffic will be automatically rerouted to Google Hong Kong, fulfilling a pledge to stop censoring searches as required by China. By relying on Hong Kong, Google is trying to find a way to fight censorship laws while still keeping a presence in mainland China. The approach may not work for long because the government will likely block the Hong Kong site just as it has before with the main page. Google challenged the Chinese government in January by threatening to allow all search results to be shown on its China Web site, including references to Tibet and the Tiananmen Square crackdown. Google has about 600 employees in China, and included the search engine, Google News and Google Images.
Digital Inspiration blog has photos of the Google office in Beijing, with flowers and wreaths.

Monday 22 March 2010

Cornell's LII hosting standards workshop

Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute in Ithaca, New York, is hosting a workshop for the Law dot Gov Initiative March 22 and 23. The ambitious goal of the meeting is to develop standards and practices for metadata for legal information online.
The workshop is focusing on four specific activities:
  1. the creation of a general standard for caselaw
  2. exploration and adaptation of the CEN/Metalex interchange standard for statutes and regulations
  3. adaptation and illustration of the URN:lex standard for legal document addresses
  4. exploration of the “scaffolding” (such as metadata registries) needed to support authoritative, distributed systems
Participants in the workshop include representatives from the law schools and law libraries at Cornell, Yale, Rutgers, Harvard, and Columbia; the Law Library of Congress; the US Government Printing Office; the Princeton Center for Information Technology and Policy; Lexis-Nexis; the National Center for State Courts; the Sunlight Foundation; and the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction. You can follow the proceedings on Twitter at #lawgov.

Updated law school spring schedule

Friday 19 March 2010

State case law availability in legal databases

3 Geeks and a Law Blog today published a post that discusses the availability of state case law in non-Wexis, lower-cost legal research databases Fastcase, Loislaw, Casemaker and Google Scholar. Law librarian Greg Lambert, who authored the post, reports that the low-cost legal research provider that has the most state case law coverage, based on years of coverage, is Casemaker. He came to this conclusion through research in which he:
  • Looked at coverage for all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia
  • Established the year that the each state published its first official state court decision (highest court)
  • Reviewed the scope of coverage for each research provider
  • Graphed who had the best pre-1950, pre-1920 and pre-1899 coverage
  • Graphed who had the most states where there was complete coverage of all decisions
  • Finally graphed the overall percentage of state case law decisions for all 50 states and the District of Columbia

You can read more and see the graphical representation of state caselaw coverage in Greg's blogpost.

YouTube, Viacom legal battle

AP news reports that Viacom and YouTube began airing each other's dirty laundry yesterday in a legal battle that has been going on since 2007. Previously confidential information came out as part of the evidence in a copyright lawsuit that Viacom filed against YouTube in 2007 for alleged copyright infringement of "The Colbert Report," "The Daily Show" and other shows. YouTube's official Blog claims that "For years, Viacom continuously and secretly uploaded its content to YouTube, even while publicly complaining about its presence there." Meanwhile, according to the Wall Street Journal law blog, Viacom, owner of Paramount Pictures, MTV and Comedy Central, cites internal YouTube memos and emails to argue that YouTube actively encouraged the distribution of infringing content, thereby disqualifying it from immunity under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Pitt sponsors debate on the Google Books settlement

Pitt's Computer Science department is sponsoring a debate titled The Google Books Settlement – Access vs. Privacy, on Friday, March 26, from 2-3 p.m. in Room 121, David Lawrence Hall. The debate will be conducted by the William Pitt Debating Union with two expert advocates: Ginger McCall, Staff Counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C. and Lateef Mtima, Professor of Law and Director of the Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice at the Howard University School of Law. Ms. McCall graduated magna cum laude from Pitt with a BA in English literature, and received her J.D. from Cornell University law school, where she helped to found the Cornell Law School National Security Law Society. Prof. Mtima graduated with honors from Amherst College and received his J.D. degree from Harvard Law School, where he was the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Harvard BlackLetter Journal.
A flyer for the event is available online.

hat tip: Sallie Smith

C-Span Launches Video Archives

C-SPAN has announced the official launch of its searchable Video Archives this week, with the inclusion of twenty-three years of C-SPAN video online. The archive offers 160,000 hours of political events covered by the C‑SPAN Networks since 1987. C-SPAN records, indexes, and archives all C-SPAN programming for historical, educational, research, and archival uses by individuals. Programs are indexed by subject, speaker names, titles, affiliations, sponsors, committees, categories, formats, policy groups, keywords, and location; the congressional sessions and committee hearings are indexed by person with full-text. C-Span founder Brian Lamb said that the archives are an extension of the network’s public service commitment.

WorldCat URLs updated to include titles

WorldCat has announced that a recent enhancement to allows work titles to be included in the URL. For example, the previous permalink URL for The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger was Now, the permalink URL will be - and, even better, title-only URLs, like will resolve correctly. According to WorldCat, this enhancement makes URLs more intuitive, mashable and search engine-friendly.

Thursday 18 March 2010

SCOTUS website: new and improved

The Supreme Court of the United States has announced that they have moved the SCOTUS website "in-house", taking over responsibility from GPO. According to the press release, "Visitors will find that the Supreme Court Web site has an updated and more user-friendly design. The site continues to provide online access to the Court's slip opinions, orders, oral argument transcripts, schedules, Court rules, bar admission forms, and other familiar information. But it also has several new features, including enhanced search capabilities, an interactive argument calendar, improved graphics, and additional historic information. The Court plans to continue to update and expand the site's features over time."

Wednesday 17 March 2010

Law School Websites Rated

Academic law librarians - especially the geeky ones - are abuzz about a new article that studies and ranks law school websites. More specifically, the article evaluates law school home pages, and ranks them according to fourteen elements that are judged to be important in how easy-to-use a website home page is. The author of the study is Roger V. Skalbeck of the Georgetown University Law Center. As the article says, "The website home page represents the virtual front door for any law school. It’s the place many prospective students start in the application process. Enrolled students, law school faculty and other employees often start with the home page to find classes, curricula and compensation plans... This brief ranking report attempts to identify the best law school home pages based entirely on objective criteria. The goal was to include elements that make websites easier to use for sighted as well as visually impaired users. Most elements require no special design skills, sophisticated technology or significant expenses."
Using this ranking system, the top five law school homepages are: George Mason, U. Virginia, Wayne State, University of Washington, and Harvard. Pitt ranks 185 out of 195 law schools; Duquesne is 186. The "worst" law school home page? University of Puerto Rico comes in at 195.

WestlawNext concerns continue

As an academic law library, Barco is somewhat insulated from the ongoing pricing skirmishes between law firm libraries and the big legal database providers. But apparently there is a lot of concern out there about pricing for the new WestlawNext, regarding which ThomsonReuters hasn't been terribly forthcoming. Joe Hodnicki over at the Law Librarian Blog has written a detailed and blistering post about the WestlawNext pricing structure, which he describes as "psychedelic". He also includes a link to Greg Lambert's blogpost at "3 Geeks & a Law Blog" that is titled WestlawNext Pricing - Up to $3400 Per Hour!!

University of New Hampshire to affiliate with Franklin Pierce

Inside Higher Education has a news item reporting that UNH and Franklin Pierce Law Center are moving ahead with a proposed merger.
The ABA and a regional accrediting body must sign off on the merger; assuming approval is given, the law school will change its name to the University of New Hampshire School of Law. It will remain in its current location in Concord, N.H. about 40 minutes away from the University of New Hampshire campus in Durham, N.H.

ULS has LexisNexis Statistical Insights database

The ULS database collection now includes LexisNexis Statistical Insight (LNSI). This database provides access to statistical information produced by U.S. Federal agencies, States, private organizations, and major intergovernmental organizations. It contains a massive collection of statistical data which can be accessed by a single easy-to-use search interface, with additional features such as descriptive abstracts, detailed indexing, full-text PDFs of source documents and tables, downloadable spreadsheets containing table data, and integration with the customizable LexisNexis Statistical DataSets interface. LexisNexis has set up a wiki to provide ongoing information about the database such as a comparison of the old LN Statistical with LNSI. There is also a detailed Guidebook (30 page pdf) to help you learn how to use the database.

Tuesday 16 March 2010

Law Librarian Conversations

On Friday March 19th at 3 pm Eastern time Law Librarian Conversations will be hosting a conversation with Roberta Shaffer, Law Librarian of Congress. You need to register here to reserve your virtual seat at the live broadcast.
If you haven't heard the latest episode, you can find it archived on the Law Librarian Conversations blog and on iTunes as a podcast.
Jason Eiseman's Google Wave demo, showing the teaching and collaboration potential of Google Wave for law schools, is also available.

Open Government tweets

This week, March 14 - 20, is Sunshine Week - a national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include print, broadcast and online news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public's right to know.
For those of you who use Twitter, Debra Gersh Hernandez, formerly of, has compiled this list of some organizations and people who post regular messages about open government issues via Twitter:
Society of Professional Journalists: @spj_tweets
Sunshine Review: @SunshineReview; and its FOIA chat: @FOIAchat
Sunlight Network: @SunlightNetwork (related: Sunlight Foundation: @sunfoundation; Sunlight Labs: @sunlightlabs; OpenCongress: @opencongress; Ellen Miller, SF executive director, @EllnMllr)
Project on Government Oversight (POGO): @POGOBlog (related: Danielle Brian, POGO executive director: @daniellebrian)
National Security Archive: @NSArchive (related, international: @freedominfoorg)
Open Society: @opensociety
Student Press Law Center: @SPLC_org
Jonathan Anderson, student journalist: @jonathanderson
First Amendment Center: @1stAmendmentCtr
OMB Watch: @OMBWatch (related: Ray Strother, OMB Watch policy analyst: @rastrother)
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press: @rcfp
White House Open Government Initiative: @OpenGov
Steven Clift, @democracy
Show Us the Data: @showusthedata
Robert J. Ambrogi, Massachusetts lawyer, media consultant: @bobambrogi

Judiciary Approves PACER Innovations To Enhance Public Access

The Judicial Conference of the United States has announced today approved key steps to improve public access to federal courts by increasing the availability of court opinions and expanding the services and reducing the costs for many users of the Public Access to Electronic Court Records (PACER) system. At its biannual meeting in Washington, D.C., the Conference voted to:
-- Allow courts, at the discretion of the presiding judge, to make digital audio recordings of court hearings available online to the public through PACER, for $2.40 per audio file.

— Adjust the Electronic Public Access fee schedule so that users are not billed unless they accrue charges of more than $10 of PACER usage in a quarterly billing cycle, in effect quadrupling the amount of data available without charge. Currently, users are not billed until their accounts total at least $10 in a one-year period.

— Approve a pilot in up to 12 courts to publish federal district and bankruptcy court opinions via the Government Printing Office’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) so members of the public can more easily search across opinions and across courts.

The Conference approved the plan to make digital audio recordings available on PACER after a two-year pilot project showed significant public interest in accessing these files. Prior to the pilot, such access was possible only by obtaining a CD recording from a court clerk’s office for $26. During the pilot, Internet access to the same content cost eight cents, but the $2.40 fee approved today was deemed by the Conference to be reasonable and come closest to recouping, but not exceeding, costs. Digital audio recording is used in most bankruptcy and district courts (where magistrate judges account for most of the usage).

For printed court documents, the $10 fee waiver affects tens of thousands of PACER users. In fiscal year 2009, about 153,000 PACER account holders—nearly half of all active accounts— did not receive a bill. For that 12-month period, a quarterly waiver would have affected an additional 85,000 accounts— resulting in 75 percent of all active accounts not receiving bills. Analysis of fiscal year 2008 billing data showed a similar impact.

Thursday 11 March 2010

CRS on the Guantanamo closure

The Congressional Research Service has provided Congress with several reports addressing the issues involved in closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center. Legal issues and legislative proposals are plentiful and CRS has been providing excellent analysis of the issues. Closing the Guantanamo Detention Center: Legal Issues presents an overview of major legal issues likely to arise as a result of executive and legislative action to close the Guantanamo detention facility. It discusses legal issues related to the transfer of Guantanamo detainees (either to a foreign country or into the United States), the continued detention of such persons in the United States, and the possible removal of persons brought into the country. It also discusses selected constitutional issues that may arise in the criminal prosecution of detainees, emphasizing the procedural and substantive protections that are utilized in different adjudicatory forums (i.e., federal civilian courts, court-martial proceedings, and military commissions). Guantanamo Detention Center: Legislative Activity in the 111th Congress presents an analysis of relevant provisions in recently enacted legislation and selected pending bills. Other relevant reports are
Comparison of Rights in Military Commission Trials and Trials in Federal Criminal Court and Enemy Combatant Detainees: Habeas Corpus Challenges in Federal Court . All these reports date from fall 2009.

hattip: Joe Hodnicki

Wednesday 10 March 2010

OCLC survey of academic librarians

OCLC has announced the results of its Survey of Academic Librarians: Use of Associations, Blogs, Listservs, Conferences & Publications about Libraries. The Survey was conducted by the Primary Research Group, and surveyed 555 full-time academic librarians in the United States and Canada. The study imparts highly specific data about academic librarian use of library oriented blogs, listservs, publications, association membership and attendance at library conferences. The report includes detail on the percentage of academic librarians who read print publications about libraries, or use library listservs and blogs, as well as the amount of time spent daily on these pursuits. It also includes data on library assocation membership and money spent on library conferences and related expenses. A few findings from the report (the full report costs money):
• Survey participants spent an average of 22.26 minutes per day (median of 10 minutes and maximum of 500 minutes) reading print publications pertaining to the librarian profession.
• Librarians age 60 and over spent the most time reading print publications, averaging 31.41 minutes per day.
• Librarians age 30 or less spent the most time reading library-oriented blogs, averaging around 19 minutes per day.
• Librarians in their current job for 10-20 years spent the most time reading library-oriented listservs, averaging 23.12 minutes per day.
• Approximately 72 percent of survey participants belong to a library professional association.
• Canadian librarians spent over 60 percent more than U.S. librarians ($2,419 and $1,484 respectively) on travel, meals and lodging associated with library conferences over the past two years.
• Among all library departments, circulation and public services librarians spent the least on library conference fees over the past two years, averaging a mean cumulative two-year total of $142.

Google Maps adds bike-friendly routes

The Chicago Tribune reports that today Google Maps will unveil a new service offering bicycle directions for 150 US cities. Bicyclists will be able to use the maps, available at , to plan trips or explore biking trails and routes. After typing in start and end points and selecting "Bicycling'' on the drop-down menu, users will be provided with itineraries and estimated travel times. To allow for variations, the step-by-step biking directions factor in the length of the trip, changes in elevation and even fatigue.

Tuesday 9 March 2010

AALL members asked for feedback on the annual meeting

The AALL is asking for feedback on specific issues related to the AALL annual meeting. The AALL Annual Meeting Review Special Committee is taking a comprehensive look at the AALL Annual Meeting and is soliciting comments from AALL members on an online form that it has developed. The committee values everyone’s viewpoints and needs input as it works to develop recommendations for Annual Meeting. The comment form will be available through Weds. March 17.

Friday 5 March 2010

LawLibRadio Moves to CALI

Richard Leiter, host of “The Law Librarian” on BlogTalkRadio, recently announced that the radio show has changed its name to “Law Librarian Conversations” and will be hosted by CALI from now on. The show will continue to provide stimulating conversation and discussion of key issues facing law librarians and the world of legal bibliography.
Today, March 5, the inaugural episode of “Law Librarian Conversations” will be broadcast on CALI’s classcaster at As always, listeners have the opportunity to listen live and participate in the discussion in the live chat room; past episodes will be available on iTunes. Guests include Margie Maes who will be sharing developments in the world of preservation. You can register online and automatically add a reminder to your calendar by clicking here.

HeinOnline linking improved

In their latest blog post, HeinOnline announces that they have made modifications behind-the-scenes of the HeinOnline website enabling you to bookmark a page without have to use the "Permalink" button. This should make it easier and faster to bookmark a specific page using your browser's bookmarking tools or to send a URL to a friend.

ULS database trials

ULS announced that they have trials for two new archival databases from EBSCO. Both will be in effect through June 2010.
The first is the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) Historical Periodicals Collection, Series 1 and Series 2 (3 more are planned). The collection is by far the most comprehensive collection of American periodicals published between 1691 and 1877. In total, more than 6,500 periodicals will be available. Series 1 (Title List) covers the period from 1691-1820; Series 2 (Title List) covers the period from 1821-1837. According to the EBSCO blurb, "The American Antiquarian Society (AAS) Historical Periodicals Collections include digitized images of the pages of American magazines and journals never before available outside the walls of the American Antiquarian Society, the premier library documenting the life of America's people from the Colonial Era through the Civil War and Reconstruction. Keyword searching is available on all titles." There are lots of fascinating titles and tidbits in the database.
The second database trial is for The American Theological Library Association (ATLA) Historical Monograph Collection containing more than 29,000 titles focused on religion and theology. In its entirety, the collection is estimated to contain over 10 million pages, representing a core collection for colleges and universities with programs in history, theology, religion, sociology, political science and other disciplines. It is meant as a resource for scholars seeking to understand religious thought and practice throughout history. Series 1 covers the period from the 13th century through 1893; Series 2 covers the years 1894-1923.

Tuesday 2 March 2010

"Neutral" citations

VoxPopuLII, the blog of the Cornell Legal Information Institute, had an interesting post yesterday about what it calls "environmentally-friendly" or "neutral" legal citations. In Canada, according to the article, almost three fourths of recent citations to case law use the "neutral citation" - an industry-independent, open citation/identifier assigned by courts to their decisions. The article goes on to talk about why this is having a significant effect on the legal publishing industry in Canada.

Welcome March

Here are a couple of other tips for March. Lifehacker provides a guide to the best times to buy anything, year round (for March, it's luggage, winter coats and boots, and frozen food). And Smashing Magazine has a selection of free desktop wallpaper calendars for March 2010.

Welcome March, here comes April

The best thing that can be said for February 2010 is that one, it was the shortest month of the year and two, it's over. Spring arrives in March, theoretically, so we hope that the icy, dirty mounds of leftover snow will soon melt away.
Of course since it's March that means that April is just around the corner... and in anticipation, CNET has an article that compares the online and desktop versions of three major DIY tax preparation programs: H&R Block At Home Deluxe (Windows Mac Online), TurboTax Deluxe (Windows Mac Online), and the smaller Tax Act Ultimate Bundle (Windows Online).
They also provide a very nice guide to the 3 programs' highlights in pictures.
CNET's conclusion: there are merits and disadvantages to all three apps, but TurboTax surpassed H&R Block's app in their tests.